Why this matters:

In accounting, it’s easy to miss a step, number, or other apparent detail. Left undetected, errors like this can have serious implications, ranging from uncollected receivables, duplicate payables, tax liability resulting in penalties and interest, and more. The answer to this question reveals checkpoints and other processes the candidate uses to ensure accuracy at all times.

What to listen for:

  • A level of crucial detail orientation
  • The use of tools, including checklists, for verifying accuracy
  • Specific strategies for quality control, such as cross-checking

Why this matters:

For accounting professionals, the way to be effective on the job is to be both accurate and insightful — and being organized is a precursor to both: it helps reduce error and shed light on key insights. As a bonus, strong organization also enables accounting professionals to get more work done, since they’ll be able to effortlessly find the numbers and documents they need.

What to listen for:

  • An aptitude for organization
  • Knowledge of the key benefits of strong organization
  • An emphasis on time management and efficiency

Why this matters:

Whether managing budgets or cash flow, balancing the books, issuing or remitting invoices, or other tasks, accounting professionals should be familiar with popular bookkeeping and accounting software in your realm. Asking this question will help you to understand a candidate’s familiarity with relevant software.

What to listen for:

  • Mention of relevant software, including Oracle NetSuite, BlackLine, Hyperion, Microsoft Dynamics GP, Google Sheets or Excel, QuickBooks, and more
  • An aptitude for technology
  • Willingness to learn new technologies

 

Why this matters:

Beyond good software and an aptitude for math, people are people, and accounting mistakes are inevitable. What’s important is what your candidate did next. The answer to this question sheds light on how your candidate holds themselves accountable for errors — including having tough conversations, if need be — and what they learned as a result.

What to listen for:

  • Accountability and ownership
  • Learning and improvement
  • An acceptance of mistakes as somewhat inevitable

Why this matters:

As an accounting professional, the candidate may be required to work with fellow finance professionals, including tax authorities, auditors, bankers, accountants, and more; additionally, they’ll likely have regular interaction with non-financial team members. This question is designed to pinpoint how well the candidate can facilitate smooth working relationships.

What to listen for:

  • A welcome attitude toward teamwork and collaboration
  • An emphasis on supporting teammates, vendors, partners, and regulatory authorities
  • Respect for fellow professionals, regardless of seniority, experience, and background

Why this matters:

Accounting work is often cyclical, based on the fiscal quarter or year, month-end, tax filings, and other deadlines. When added to existing responsibilities, this can create a high-pressure situation that increases the risk of error, stress, and burnout. This question will reveal whether the candidate can take deadlines in stride with their usual work.

What to listen for:

  • Recognition of tight deadlines as part of the job
  • Grace and calm under pressure
  • Willingness to put in extra hours during high-pressure periods

Why this matters:

Accounting professionals often work alongside non-financial professionals, and it’s important that they feel confident in communicating what’s important to non-financial colleagues — and in voicing any disagreement. This question also allows the candidate to showcase how they adjust their communication style for clients and coworkers of varying backgrounds.

What to listen for:

  • Confidence with interpersonal communication
  • Demonstrated comfort in presenting and discussing financial information
  • Enthusiasm for teamwork and proactive collaboration with colleagues and clients

Why this matters:

Accounting professionals without a more specific job title may be doing entry-level work, and, as with any entry-level position, you’d want to hire candidates who see this as a long-term career path. Someone who is hoping to focus their future on the accounting field will be more likely to excel on your team.

What to listen for:

  • Passion for accounting and finance
  • The ambition to take on additional responsibilities and grow into a more senior role
  • An interest in acquiring new skills as a result of this position

Why this matters:

No matter the level of accounting professional, it’s always best for the candidate to follow the latest developments in accounting, including best practices, rules changes, software changes, industry trends, and other news. Candidates who are strong proponents of self-education are more likely to care about the role — and thrive on the job and in their career.

What to listen for:

  • Pursuit of learning opportunities such as webinars, workshops, and trainings
  • Interest in industry-relevant articles and other news
  • A way to learn about changing regulations and other best practices
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